Saturday, 14 December 2013

Speaking Out

I understand the business side of hockey where players get traded. Sometimes, trades are made to better the team in acquiring a different type of player or to remove a player who simply isn't fitting into the overall success. However, there are times where a player is moved because management feels he's a disruption in the room or to the team's overall goal. Today, we may have seen the wheels put in motion in the Jets ridding themselves of Blake Wheeler thanks to his comments made after their loss to Dallas.

Blake Wheeler had himself a pretty good game against the Stars, picking up a pair of goals, but the overall effort of the Jets was sloppy and uninspired, dropping the game by a 6-4 count and dropping them to 14-15-5 in the standings including a 3-11-3 mark against the Central Division. Three straight home losses to division rivals St. Louis, Colorado, and Dallas had the big Jets winger seething as Wheeler let off some steam in the locker room.
“You can blow smoke as much as you want in the media. We've been blowing smoke for three years. Everyone. Myself, every that’s stood in front of a microphone the last three years. We said the same [expletive]. I mean, what do you want me to say?

“We were terrible in the first period. After a kind of a gut-wrenching loss to Colorado, normally our team has been better after we’ve had tough losses.”
I can understand the frustration after dropping three-straight games. I can understand the disappointment in not being able to, find a second goal in the St. Louis game, close out the Colorado game, or compete in the Dallas game. But for Blake Wheeler to call out the Jets for the last three years? That's a shot across the bow of the coaching staff and the management on how this team is run simply due to the fact that the only constants on the roster are about six guys. Maybe it was meant for this core group of players, but that ripple Wheeler made will be felt up the chain as much as it is in the dressing room.

There has been criticism in some circles in Winnipeg about how GM Kevin Cheveldayoff has yet to swing a trade mid-season without the trade deadline looming. Sure, he dealt away Johnny Oduya, but only after Oduya made it clear that he would not be re-signing in Winnipeg, instead seeking free agency. That trade was basically forcing Cheveldayoff's hand in getting something instead of being stuck with nothing. Aside from that deal, though, he has not made an in-season deal yet, acquiring all new players in the summer or via the waiver wire.

There is also rumbling in some corners of the city that head coach Claude Noel may have lost the room with respect to some players. We've seen his coaching style force Alexander Burmistrov to walk away from his contract in the NHL for the greener pastures of Russia and the KHL, and there is chatter that Evander Kane may be less than enthused with Noel. Rumors aside, there is no denying that the system the Jets employ isn't working after three seasons, and it may be time to look at changing the way the Jets play the game with some new ideas and new philosophies.

While he was less harsh in his criticism, captain Andrew Ladd also gave an honest assessment of the Jets' effort today.
“It's the same thing over and over for me. The first two goals are just terrible changes so that's just mental stuff that to me, quite frankly, is embarrassing.

“That five minute power play was one we needed to kill off. Up to that point we were still in the game. Even giving up those chances it was still 3-3. Then you end up going to the third down 5-3 and you're doing things out of the system, trying to make things happen which we shouldn't be doing but then the game gets away from you even more.”
When asked if something needs to change, Ladd wouldn't specify, but it sounds like he expects and wants changes. Ladd said, "I don’t know. It’s not my decision to make. But obviously something needs to change."

Asked if he would compare the three home losses, a clearly-agitated Ladd responded, "It's the same thing over and over again for me. I’m not in the mood to rank it."

When two of the "core players" are calling for changes, it might be time to listen. They're the guys in the dressing room, and they seem to be saying the same thing: guys on this Jets team simply aren't getting it. Whether it be the overall game plan, the coach's messages, the stuff they work on in practice, it wasn't clearly defined, but one thing that is certain is that two of the Jets' highest-paid players are not happy with this club.

It might be time for management to end the lip service of "holding the line" and "sticking with this group". Clearly, it ain't working. And we haven't even spoken about the Winnipeg fans, who have been treated to .500 hockey for three years since the club made its way to Winnipeg, who have a number of opinions about the club and how to fix the club!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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